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Murderous Instincts (1964)

Also known as Intentions of Murder and Unholy Desire, this film is about a common law wife, Sadako, who is treated like a servant by her husband, who has a mistress, and her mother-in-law. After being raped by a burglar, Hiraoko, she thinks of committing suicide, but her love for her son Masaru keeps her from it. She can’t tell anyone what happened, or she will be disgraced and her life would be over. The rapist, who has heart problems, then starts coming back claiming to love her and we can see Sadako beginning to question her feelings about him.
The very controversially themed film, might not seem correct today. The psychologically abused woman decides that the love of a rapist is better than the oppressive life with her husband and his family. Imamura’s story is in fact be a very strongly pro-feminist commentary on the status of women in 1960’s Japan.
The shots of Masaru’s pet mice running around on their wheel are a statement on the lives that many women were trapped in abusive relationships by society’s conventions. In some ways I am reminded of the American movie Pleasantville, where Betty discovers that she doesn’t have to stay inside the oppressive world of the 1950’s American homemaker.
Hiraoko keeps returning because he has fallen in love with Sadako. Sadako know that relationship is crazy, but she can’t help how she feels. She has probably never felt loved before in her life. As her relationship deteriorates with her husband, her strange relationship develops with Hiraoko.
Sadako’s young son, who she lives for, also begins to treat her badly. He calls her a liar, an idiot and fatso. He is growing up in a house where there is very little respect for Sadako, and he is mirroring the behavior of his abusive father.
Sadako finally gives in to her feelings and goes to meet with Hiraoko. At first she tries to buy him off, telling him not to come see her again. But she eventually gives in to her feelings and begins to share his dream of escaping from her life and going with him to Tokyo.
Sadako decides that for the good of her son, the only thing she can do is to murder Hiraoko. She goes off with him, as her husband’s mistress takes pictures for evidence. They climb a mountain in the snow and enter a train tunnell, which is symbolic of freedom and Tokyo. Sadako hands Hiraoko a poison drink, but she can’t go through with it and stops hom before he drinks it.
A really different, very brave film, that is probably unmakeable in American cinema, at least in the somber, serious tone that this was set in here. This is a movie that should he seen, analyzed and discussed. It is a wonderful piece of art that has a lot to say about the human condition. A masterpiece.

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